Premier Divisions Take Control at Dunedin

It took five days for Aotearoa’s best surfers to light up St Clair Beach but it was worth the wait as they tore apart the waves on their opening day of the 2024 National Surfing Championships being held in Dunedin this week.

There was just enough swell throughout the day with waves under 1.0m and light offshore winds for much of the day before a southerly blew through late in the afternoon.

A relatively straight forward day of surfing saw many of the top seeds advance despite some close calls and scares, including a last second progression from nine-time champion Billy Stairmand (Rag).  Seemingly out of contention, Stairmand caught a small wave with less than ten second remaining and did enough to advance in second place behind Tai Murphy (Ohope), avoiding elimination at the hands of Jack Rahuruhi of Westport.

Piha’s Elliot Paerata – Reid won the last edition of the event held at St Clair in 2020 and he was the standout surfer of the first round surfing to a 15.75 point heat total.  Paerata – Reid opted to surf down the beach from his opponents and capitalized on an uncontested selection of waves before joining his opponents late to shut out the heat.

Defending champion Dune Kennings (Piha) advanced through his heat to get his campaign underway, appearing unperturbed by the title defence.

“I’m just taking each heat as it comes, trying to find the best waves and do my best surfing as I usually do at events, nothing much has changed,” said Kennings.

“Today I started off really slow, but I knew if I got a couple of waves, I could get the scores I needed, so it was about being patient and the waves eventually came to me,” he added.

The four finalists  in the men’s division will be required to surf four times on the final day so the road to the title will be about managing workload and keeping focused and hydrated throughout the day, something that Kennings was aware of leading into Saturday, “I have to trust that I have put in the hard work before the event and make sure I keep my hydration up throughout the day.”

Oliver Charlesworth represented the deep south well with an outstanding 15.0 point performance as did Westport’s Jai Wybrow posting 14.0 points in his heat.

Whangarei’s Tom Robinson made easy work of his first round match up with a pair of waves totalling 16.0 in the first five minutes of his heat.  Taylor Hutchison (Rag) was similar in his heat surfing to 14.90 points early for an easy victory.

Only two heats of the Open Women’s Division were contested, and they featured Olympic qualifier Saffi Vette of Gisborne who had to settle for second in her heat at the hands of Sophia Brock (Mnt).  The two-time champion (2019, 2021) will next surf on the final day of the event when she matches up against defending event champion Pia Rogers (WGM), Gabi Paul (Piha) and Estella Hungerford (Chch).

In the second women’s heat, it was Gracey George (Dun) competing in her first national championship that advanced alongside fellow local surfer Jaya Reardon.

Late in the day the quarterfinals of the Under 18 and 16 Boys were held with some searing surfing from the next generation. Tai Murphy (Ohope) and Alexis Owen (Dun) were standouts in the Under 18s but it was the performance of young Sol Fritchley in the Under 16 Boys Division that was the highlight of the afternoon as he surfed his way to 16.60 points in his quarterfinal matchup.

The Volkswagen Highest Single Wave Score of the Day went to Sol Fritchley (Mnt) for a 9.1 point ride in the Under 16 Boys Division full his full rail carving on his forehand.

The penultimate day of the event sees the completion of all junior divisions – Under 14, 16 and 18s before the Open Men and Women take center stage on the final day of the event.

Action takes place from 8am – 5pm daily.  Schedules, live scores and results are available via

Over 350 entries have been received for the event which takes place from today (Sunday 7th January) and runs through until Saturday 13th January.  It is the ninth time the event has been staged at Dunedin, dating back to 1978.

Raglan’s Point Boardriders are the defending club champions from the 2023 event.  With the event being held in the South Island this year, the likes of hosts South Coast Boardriders will be eager to take the title and challenge perennial front runners including the defending champions, Bay Boardriders and New Plymouth Surfriders.

Also, up for grabs at the 61st Championships is the Peter Byers Overall Performance of the Event Award which was won by Taranaki surfer.

A total of 26 divisions are contested at the event including the premier Open Men and Women plus additional divisions comprising of age groups from Under 14 boys and girls through to Over 70s for males and females and Longboard, Stand Up Paddleboard, Bodyboard, Kneeboard and adaptive disciplines.

The event would not be possible without the support of the following partners: Sport NZ, Volkswagen and Sun Bum.  The 2024 National Surfing Championships is proudly hosted by South Coast Boardriders and South Island Surfing Association.

Schedule of events:
Sunday 7th January – Senior Men and Women, Kneeboard
Monday 8th January – Senior Men and Women
Tuesday 9th January – Longboard, Bodyboard, SUP and Junior Boys and Girls
Wednesday 10th January – Junior Boys and Girls
Thursday 11th January – Open Men and Women, Junior Boys and Girls
Friday 12th January – Open Men and Women
Saturday 13th January – Open Men and Women

The 2024 National Surfing Championships commences both the domestic NZ Surf Series, NZ Grom Series and NZ Longboard Series with fifteen events scheduled around the country this summer.

Further Information
For further information on the 2024 National Surfing Championships please contact Surfing New Zealand’s Ben Kennings on 021 2278732 or email

High resolution action images of the surfing will be available to media free of charge upon request.

Social Media
Keep up with all the action by following @surfingnz on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  Use the hashtag #2024Nats to follow the story.

Surfing New Zealand is proudly partnered by:
Sport NZ
Sun Bum


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Author: Ben Kennings